Friday, 2 July 2010

*Subbing* seems to be the hardest word

Forget cardiovascular workouts, forget frenzied, passionate all-night lovemaking sessions… al...though…no… no… c’mon, focus now…and forget the sheer icy panic you get when you think you mightn’t have locked the front door before your 2-hour trip… or turned the gas off (seriously? WHO forgets to turn the Gas off?) Nope - if there’s anything guaranteed to quicken my pulse, send my heart-rate into overdrive and my blood pressure soaring, it’s sending out a submission.
And I’m not alone *gulp* am I?

 Over the years, I've probably lost about fourteen pounds (that’s a stone, right?) just sitting at the keyboard with my finger poised over the left-clicker – THAT’s how trembly my right hand gets. I've never needed one of those mad machines that shakes my cellulite into surrender, like a crazy blender with no lid… oh no, all I have to do is prepare my nice polite enquiry email, make sure I’ve got a new document with three chapters in it, polish my synopsis until I can see my (sweaty) face in it, swallow back whatever meal that threatens to re-appear and hover over ‘send’.

I’ve even been known to do it with my eyes shut; it gets that bad. As if shutting my eyes somehow makes the whole process that much easier, less stressful, more dream-like. Like it maybe didn’t happen because I wasn’t looking? Isn’t that a bit like calories not counting if you eat something when nobody’s watching? Love that idea. Eating alone is my diet of choice. But I digress.
Subbing.
I used to take Subbing to the max. “Extreme Subbing” if you like. Back in the days when paper, ink, envelopes (including self-addressed) and stamps were de rigueur. And Post Offices. My God, Post Offices. I’m still very surprised that the lady behind the counter who worked the 2 o’clock shift didn’t ever ask me if I’d thought about therapy, the number of times I got her to weigh the envelope with contents, then take out the self-addressed envelope and letter and weigh it all again so I’d know how much the return postage would be. Because sometimes I might have used ‘heavier’ ink than the last time. I mean, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the lower an ink cartridge gets, the fainter the print, and the lighter the whole caboodle? And I didn’t want those nice people at the Marsh Literary Agency* thinking I was a total prole for not understanding something as straightforward as the Royal Mail standard postage weights and measures guidelines. Well, did I? Such ineptitude would surely send my manuscript back to the bottom of the slush pile - for only submissions by writers with a basic grasp of Post Office Protocol would be worthy of reading.
At least that was my worry. Well, one of them.

Along with all the others. Did I put the right letter in the right envelope? did I put the right SAE in the right envelope? did I stick stamps on every-bloody-thing? And of course, did the nice Post Office lady really understand what it is I was asking her to do in the first place anyway?
I’m surprised I slept at all.

But at least in those ‘paper-days’ I’d have been able (if I’d been so inclined and that convinced that something in an envelope was awry) to stake out the box into which the envelope had been posted, lie in wait for the post van to collect the contents and then wrestle my envelope from his sack so that I could rip everything open only to discover that nothing WAS actually wrong in the first place and actually I DO need to seek psychiatric assistance of some kind.
After my second book did the (boomerang) rounds and I worked out I was probably spending more in posting my submissions than I was getting paid for in the part-time job which fuelled my habit, I decided to just sub to Agents whose email details appeared in the Writers and Artists Yearbook.  And there're a fair few of them.  But it doesn't make the 'sending' any less traumatic.  In fact there's not even the consolation of being able to lie in wait for the Royal Mail van after you've hit 'send' - and the blind panic I felt once when I realised I'd sent an enquiry to two different Agencies but addressed to the same person, was something I do not wish repeating in a hurry.

And, so having committed this idiotically heart-stopping misdemeanour, would YOU:
a) send another e-mail saying 'oops, sorry about that - I'm a fool who doesn't deserve representation.  I insist you send this message and any attachments directly to your recycle bin', or
b) pretend you didn't notice and hope they don't either, or
c) convince yourself that they'll think you're just a typical creative-type who, although obviously a skilled story-teller, has a head too full of creative ideas to master the banalities of basic emailing.
Yup, me too.  I'm a c) person every time.

*Just one of a number of very lovely Literary Agencies Out There.

17 comments:

Caroline Rance said...

Funny post! This brought back the feeling of horror I had when, after standing at the postbox for about half an hour trying to make myself let go of the envelope, I finally plucked up the courage to drop it... As it flopped into the depths, I realised I'd put that I was 'seeking representation' when it was actually to a publisher!

Caroline Green said...

Hilarious! Oh I know that sweaty, eyes-closed horror so very well....

Roderic Vincent said...

I love this line: "only submissions by writers with a basic grasp of Post Office Protocol would be worthy of reading."

Susan Woodring said...

Too funny! I actually miss the post office days. Seems like it's almost too easy these days, easier to make mistakes, I think.

Jenzarina said...

Great post.
I got to know my Post Office Lady pretty well. She asked me whether i worked with 'Carol', who had apparently been going in each week with similar thick envelopes addressed to the same people and going through the same SAE-weighing rigmarole as me.
'Carol' and I never met, which is a shame as we could have been friends.

Anonymous said...

Subbing doesn't quicken my pulse anymore. In fact, i don't think i've got a pulse after nigh on 70 rejections. God. Imagine that. Being an immortal facing an eternity of subbing work...

(can anyone tell i'm seeing Eclipse tomorrow...;))

Great post.

Sam

Dream it, then do it said...

Or...
d)Get drunk, tell yourself they're probably bigger idiots than yourself and wouldn't recognise a good book if it bit them in the arse and write a letter to the Times bemoaning the lack of encouragement in this country for creative talent.

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

So true, and it's the sheer cringeworthiness of that horrible moment when you realise you've really been STUPID (and, as you say, it's so easily done): my worst and most blushworthy was sending the whole ms, weighing a ton, to an American publisher and sending return postage in BRITISH STAMPS...Needless to say, I never got my ms back, nor even any acknowledgement. :(
Susiex

Susie Nott-Bower said...

PS - That's why 'subbing' is so close to 'sobbing'...

Caroline Green said...

Brilliant, Susie! LOL!

ChrisCross said...

Aha, I thought, subbing... I know about this. But you were talking about subbing (as in submitting) while I was thinking of subbing (as in sub-editing)! However, as a reporter, my trepidation when subs looked at my copy was probably just as great. Then, when I became a sub myself, after the paper went to press I used to wake at 2 or 3 in the morning worrying about mistakes I might have made. Debs, your post - and the comments - made laugh. It was a lovely piece of writing.

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks Chris!

Paul said...

I have to say I'm with Sam on this. I don't feel any hesitation or dread when submitting (whether it is a novel manuscript or a short story). That's just a mechanical step. Getting the piece ready for submitting -- that's the hard part for me. And researching to find a likely market for it is not so much fun for me either.

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